Politics & Government

SC Democrats mull next move after big losses on Election Day

FILE: Congressional candidate Fran Person speaks during a rally at Morris College in Sumter. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, also spoke at the rally, encouraging a crowd of about 200 to support the Democratic Party.
FILE: Congressional candidate Fran Person speaks during a rally at Morris College in Sumter. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, also spoke at the rally, encouraging a crowd of about 200 to support the Democratic Party. tglantz@thestate.com

Democratic S.C. congressional candidates now are picking up the pieces after being routed Tuesday.

Longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia easily won re-election Tuesday, the only Democrat to win a congressional race.

Other Democratic congressional candidates lost by more than predicted, crushed by an unexpected wave of Donald Trump support.

“It was disappointing but kind of consistent with what I saw as I got around the district,” said Democrat Fran Person, who ran against U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, in the 5th District. “A whole lot of hard-working folks out there kind of feel disenfranchised by the system.”

Person, a former aide to Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, was seen as the Democrat’s most legitimate challenger this year to a Republican incumbent. But he lost by more than 20 percentage points Tuesday.

“The top of the ticket always really dictates what happens on the bottom half,” S.C. Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison said. “If you’re able to get more Republicans out in the contest, odds are Republicans are going to do much better.”

Harrison added he hopes the candidates – almost all of them running for the first time – learn from their efforts and continue to build their networks of supporters.

“I always tell people, politics isn’t baseball. There’s no three strikes, and then you’re out. It’s all about finding the right position at the right time and making sure you can take advantage of that.”

Person said he is not set on his next move but will remain active in his community regardless.

“Service comes in all shapes and forms,” Person said. “I think I could have done a great job as a congressman, but it’s not going to end there. I’ll serve in any capacity I can.”

Richland librarian Arik Bjorn, another political newcomer, lost by more than 24 points to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, in the 2nd District race.

Undeterred, Bjorn said he plans to run again. He said he would consider taking on Wilson again, challenging for Republican state Rep. Kirkman Finlay’s S.C. House seat or running for governor in 2018.

“The vast majority of people run for city council or school board, a much smaller seat the first time,” Bjorn said. “I jumped into the big ocean because nobody else would, and now I have the accumulated experience of 12 years packed into eight months.”

Clinton tops Trump in S.C. fundraising

Democrat Hillary Clinton raised more than $730,000 more than President-elect Donald Trump in South Carolina this election season.

However, during the presidential election cycle, S.C. residents contributed twice as much to Republican presidential candidates than Democrats.

Data from the Federal Election Commission shows Clinton raised more than $2 million in the Palmetto State. Trump raised less than $1.3 million.

Still, Trump won the state by 14 percentage points en route to a stunning presidential victory.

Republican presidential candidates raised more than $5 million here, double the Democrats’ total of $2.5 million.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca, who dropped out of the GOP presidential race last December, raised nearly $1.45 million in South Carolina to lead all other Republicans.

First WPOTUS?

Clinton could not become the first woman president of the United States. But state Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, predicts the so-called glass ceiling will not stay for long.

“The first female POTUS will be (S.C. Gov.) Nikki Haley,” Peeler tweeted the morning after the election, before tacking on his trademark “gaffnese” hashtag.

The Republican governor has been floated as a future presidential candidate by news outlets and political pundits as well.

This year, Haley was seen as a potential vice presidential pick had U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida or Ted Cruz of Texas won the GOP nomination. Haley later said she had no interest in becoming Trump’s running mate.

GOP picks up two State House seats

The GOP picked up two S.C. House seats on Tuesday, but Democrats held on to their contested seats in the state Senate.

Republicans picked up House seats in Newberry and Charleston counties.

In Newberry, businessman Rick Martin will succeed retiring state Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry. And Republican Lin Bennett won the District 114 seat left open by state Rep. Mary Tinkler, D-Charleston, who quit the State House to run successfully for Charleston County treasurer.

The two pickups give Republicans their largest House majority — 80-44 — since Reconstruction.

However, Democrats held onto two contested Senate seats.

Mike Fanning, who defeated incumbent Creighton Coleman in the Democratic Primary, overcame news of an investigation into a fondling allegation against him to win Senate District 17, defeating Republican Mark Palmer of York by nearly 7 percentage points.

And, in Northeast Richland’s District 22, Democratic state Rep. Mia McLeod beat Republican Susan Brill for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie.

McLeod’s election – and that of Republican Susan Senn of Charleston, who won the Senate seat vacated by Paul Thurmond’s retirement – brings to four the number of women in the Senate, up from only one two years ago.

Republicans remain the Senate’s majority party. However, they are fractured into factions.

Write-in effort fails against GOP nominee

Republican Jason Elliott won the House 22 seat despite a write-in campaign launched against him after news reports said the Greenville attorney would become the state’s first openly gay House member.

The 13,013 votes that Elliott received were more than five times the 2,413 write-in votes cast against him.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

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